As we all know, the season brings us great joy, excitement and celebration with our families and friends. It also can bring about great changes to our overall health and well-being. There are our increased social commitments, weather changes, and for most of us, changes in both the way we eat and what we eat. All of these components influence and challenge our health and sense of well-being. It is no wonder we leave the season feeling tired and unbalanced, with many of us feeling physically unwell.
Most of us can see the signs ranging from simple sniffles and sneezes, fevers and coughs, to more severe infections and illnesses. While no one likes these “normal” experiences, they're actually a natural and necessary part of maintaining our health and well-being. This may sound new or even odd to some, to refer to an “illness” as necessary, but ancient medicinal practices remind us that what we, in the modern world, refer to as a “cold” is nature’s way of cleaning us out from within. To simply stop these biological processes just because they're inconvenient or uncomfortable is unwise and even detrimental to our health. In Chinese medicine (Taoist medicine), working on or taking care of our internal health is the most important step we can take in order to give our best potential to ourselves, our families, work and society in general.
Biologically, we as living organisms all have debris at the cellular level consisting of slow functioning and decaying cells. Normally, our immune cells (macrophages) “eat up” this debris so that we remain clean and function at our best. Yet, much of the time, our bodies are tired, busy and not functioning at their best. This is often due to society's message that, “You should keep working at all costs!” (even your health), implying that tending to yourself is weak, inferior or lazy.
Yet, what does it mean to take care of our symptoms? Isn’t taking a sip of "NyQuil" good for a cold or flu, "Mucinex" for all forms of phlegm, "Allegra" for our histamine reactions, or cortisone for our inflammations? These over-the-counter medications all (potentially) change how we are feeling at the moment, but are these approaches really a solution to help us to heal and be the best we can be?
We have been led to believe and conditioned to assume that we are better off by quickly reducing our symptoms for better health. This is part of the reason for the ineffectiveness of modern healthcare. There is no “magic pill”. Every symptom is there for a reason. Not one symptom is miscellaneous! To keep it simple, our body needs illness to clean, repair and replenish. A week in bed under the covers is good for the mind, body and a balanced chemistry. Therefore, supporting our chemistry is best when we 'embrace' our illnesses.
Soups, waters, healing and medicinal herbs, appropriate supplements, energetic balancing, and others techniques all support the body’s natural way of healing and repairing. I consistently see more and more patients who “get” this increasingly popular world view and not only recover well and fully, but have less and less illness over their life-times.
When “gunk” stays in the system, and is pushed down by suppressive drugs and over-the-counter remedies, the body will prepare for submission by getting sicker and weaker. This is particularly true for the elderly with weakened immune systems.
Remember that health is what happens when we’re not actively being “appropriate!” Health is the natural response to whatever imbalances occur in the body, it just may not be convenient or comfortable. Allowing yourself and your body to heal is life's best antibiotic. Your grandmother's advice was right! Stay warm, get some rest, and a little bit of her chicken soup was, and still is the best medicine.
- Dr. Allen Arnette